2018: A Year of Making
I sat down this week and re-read the goals I laid out for my making in 2018. Honestly, I wish I’d done this more often throughout the year. I thought I knew what I’d outlined there. But, it turns out, my mind is an unfaithful recorder. What I found in my words was more intention setting than a list of tasks. I laid out a few specifics, sure. But, not with the ambition to cross them hastily from my list. My goal setting was more examination than prescription.
I got lost somewhere, believing my making was meant to be about accomplishing. The rat race is always such a tempting, bubbling distraction. You can see this struggle in the introduction to my monthly reviews. Again and again I have to remind myself that the purpose of those updates was merely as a lens through which to view my making over the course of a year. In that spirit, I share here both what I made in 2018 as well as how it felt.
I started the year enamored with the idea of crafting an intentional, unhurried wardrobe for myself. It felt like I was stepping into unchartered and important territory. Coasting both on the thrill of anticipation and perhaps a bit of self righteousness, I slammed into reality rather precipitously.
Paralyzed by aspirations of perfection, I sat mired in indecision for the first six months. It wasn’t until July that I even managed to pair pattern with fabric and begin a project. Throughout that tortured process the frustration continued to mount. Beginning to sew did little to ameliorate it.
I was frustrated at missteps and miscalculations. I was frustrated with my own limitations. But, mostly, I was frustrated that my progress wasn’t faster. If I’m being entirely honest, I think I was frustrated that the whole giant project wasn’t finished already. It is, of course, ridiculous that I’m fighting to accept the protracted pace of an unhurried wardrobe. Or, maybe, that is exactly what I should have expected from the beginning.
Having said all of that, I’m actually thrilled with the point I’m at with my Unhurried Wardrobe. I’ve waded through the indecision to find the tipping point toward action. I’m sure it will always be a struggle for me to reconcile the speed at which my mind can flit to an end product with the glacial pace of actually creating such a thing. But, identifying the struggle empowers and calms me. What’s truly exciting is realizing that this is the area where I produced the least and learned the most this year. It’s a fair exchange, I’d say.
Schoolhouse Tunic (turned dress) in green linen; Forsythe Trousers in green cotton/linen blend; Maya Top in green linen and hand embroidered
After a year of making, I have a pile of fabric, a cadre of patterns and one fully functioning garment. Granted, I made two others that didn’t work out as I wanted. They’re patiently awaiting modification.
In terms of sheer accomplishment, it’s an unimpressive output. But, as the genesis of my Unhurried Wardrobe, I’m quite pleased with the trajectory.
Second hand denim capris that I took in; Second hand chambray top likewise altered; Karma trench cut out in boiled wool
To fully account for my progress, there a few other items of note. I did take in a pair of denim capris and a chambray top, both of which I got second hand. And, I got a Karma Trench coat cut out in boiled wool, though only a handful of seams begun by the end of the year.
The progression of a quilt
Going into the year I had pretty specific (and constrained) thoughts on what I wanted to accomplish in my quilting. I had two quilts in mind. I conceded that the first one may be a year long project, since it’s a large queen size quilt and I’m hand quilting it. The second was meant to be a quilt for my son who graduated in May.
It turns out that I am a poor prognosticator. I accurately predicted the first quilt as a long-term project. Though, I grossly underestimated how long the term would be. I had envisioned sitting quietly under my quilt hand quilting by February. The process, it transpired, was far more circuitous than that. There was some playing around with fabric. There was some iterating. There were parts that I was sure were working that had to be left out. All of that meant that the front and back weren’t complete until July. I have made only the smallest of dents into the quilting since then.
As for that second quilt, it never even got past the concept stage. But, that’s alright. Said son has put in an order for the type of quilt he’d like when he returns in two years. So, I have a little while to sit with that one.
A few Scrap Basket Improvs. You can see all of them here.
Unsurprising to anyone who has attempted any creative pursuit ever, a few unanticipated projects snuck their way into my making time. 117 of them, to be exact.
In early Spring I started hankering for a way to play with fabric. A practice of Scrap Basket Improv developed almost without my intending it. It was a wonderful way to experiment and discover. It loosened up my making practice and opened me up in a really essential way.
Quilted trivet, gift bag, and mini-quilt made from Scrap Basket Improv pieces.
The only downside to all that unconstrained playing is that I ended up with 117 little pieces of unfinished thoughts made manifest in fabric. That can fracture my creative energy pretty quickly. So, progress toward completion is critical. Most of them will go together in a quilt. Others will need to become stand alone projects. I’ve finished three of these already, with two others lacking only their bindings.
Striped scarf, Bandana cowl, Fingerless gloves
My knitting at the beginning of the year was almost manic. I’d heard knitters describe “projects slipping on their needles unbidden”. This was the first time I found myself in that situation.
There were just two things I’d said I intended to make: a sweater and a pair of socks. Instead, I ended the year with three hats, a scarf, a cowl, a pair of fingerless gloves and a sweater.
I blame the spate of small projects on a sudden urge to clean out my tiny stash. As much of a digression as they seem, they actually fit into my overall knitting goal quite well. Because, really, what I wanted was to grow my knitting skills. And all those little projects gave me fruitful ground for learning. I tried a host of new techniques including short rows, cables, picking up stitches, various increases and decreases, and magic loop. Not only is our winter hat drawer in a much healthier state, but I also feel far more adventurous in my knitting.
The progression of a sweater
Of course, tackling my first sweater taught me lots of things about sweater construction. But it gifted me with so many more insights than simply how a sweater goes together. I learned how to take each step at a time and not worry about all the mysterious instructions that come later. It also taught me a great deal about perseverance. It is a skill to stick with a project even without the close prospect of the endorphin rush of completion. It is not a skill that I always have an easy time accessing, so this sweater was excellent training grounds.
A few of the many acts of mending for the year
This is the area that I'm most intrigued by what I found as I surveyed over my making in 2018. I’m grateful that I began to document, at least in numbers, my mending throughout the year. These actions aren’t overly newsworthy. I don’t typically photograph them, or hardly take notice of them, beyond handing the mended item back to its waiting owner. But, it’s deeply helpful to me to be able to quantify what is required if we’re to care for our textiles instead of tossing them at the first sign of wear.
For our family of eight, that number is 75. Seventy-five acts of mending. In 2018 I mended:
6 Pairs of pants
12 Pairs of shorts
1 Bed sheet
15 Dish towels
5 Bath towels
2 Bath mats
4 Stuffed Animals
1 Dog collar
Any year of making will have its inevitable miscellanies. This one included a pair of peacekeeping laundry bracelets, a rope basket to corral dog toys, and a robot toy gifted to the cutest little one.
Sitting down to document my making each month has often felt stilted and a bit pointless.But, I’m grateful, now, to have the running record of where I’ve been.This year I want to make room for different types of writing, so I’ll be keeping my record on an informal spreadsheet for myself, and sharing projects as their story is ready here on my blog.